Planning a caroling party . . . lighting, safety, sustenance, the
route, the music
For spreading holiday cheer door to door, there’s nothing like
an old-fashioned caroling party. Over the years, we’ve heard from
readers who’ve joined voices with family and friends to celebrate
the season. Here we share their tips for making the event a success for
Set a date and invite your guests as soon as possible–the week or
two before Christmas is usually a busy time. In case of wet weather,
you might also schedule a rain date.
Serve a two-part menu. As guests gather, offer light finger foods
that don’t require more than napkins or paper plates, making
clean-up easy. Have something warm and more substantial waiting when
you return, but limit main dishes to ones you can leave warming while
your’re out. Ask guests to bring thermoses to carry while
caroling; before you set out, fill them with cocoa, spiced cider, or
another hot drink to ward off the evening’s chill.
Plan a route. Decide where you’re going before you hit the
street. It’s often a good idea to alert neighbors that they might
be visited (or to find out if they’re even going to be home). If
there’s nearby convalescent home or children’s hospital, call
ahead to see if you’d be welcome.
Pick a leader who can keep a group of adults and children organized
both musically and geographically. Choose someone who has a loud voice
and a sense of humor. The leader decides what song to sing, which house
to visit, and which child can ring the next doorbell.
Before you leave, take a few minutes to practice–you’ll warm
up your voice, overcome any jitters, and leave with a feeling of modest
Have music in hand. Songbooks are a must. Few people remember the
words to the third verse of “O Come, all ye Faithful’ or other
famous carols. For large groups, you could type out the lyrics and have
copies made for each singer. To find songbooks, check music stores,
bookstores, and libraries. Some churches will loan books to
Encourage anyone with a musical instrument to bring it along.
Off-key notes commonly occur, and an instrument can help unsure voices
get back on track. You can also buy or borrow a few cassette tapes of
favorite carols to plug into a portable player as a sing-along cue.
Light up. Ask guests to bring flashlights or candles. Candles
have a romantic charm and also aid in visibility. Choose the dripless kind and put them in glass holders or fluted foil baking cups.
As an alternative to candles, you can decorate flashlights by
taping lengths of bright-colored tissue around the lens end. When the
flashlight shines, the translucent tissue gives off a warm glow.
Or make a highly visible “sandwich board’ by applying
patterns of reflective tape on pieces of lightweight white cardboard.
The tape reflects direct light brilliantly. You can find it at many
automotive supply stores and bicycle shops; a yard of inch-wide tape
costs about $2.
A band of reflective material for joggers makes a ready-to-wear
item. It’s sold in bicycle shops and running supply stores.
As carolers wander from house to house, they invariably overflow
from sidewalks and stroll on the street. Think about asking people with
flashlights to stay on the perimeter; light can define the edges of your
group and pick up hazards such as uneven pavement.
Photo: Candle-lit carolers share songbooks borrowed from a church.
For windier nights, they’d need flashlights
Photo: Before heading our, carolers enjoy light snacks, then follow
the leader to warm up their voices. Jackets in light, bright colors
will keep them warm and more visible outside at night
Photo: For safety in the dark, one caroler wears a white sandwich
board with reflective tape (far left), another wears a jogger’s
chest band. Colored tissue paper glows at end of flashlight